With two rounds of the new English Premier League season done, we thought we’d stop and take stock of what has happened so far. There has already been drama, controversy and a number of surprises. Below I’ll take a look at The Good, The Bad and the Somewhere In Between from the opening two fixtures.
You only have to look at the league table to see how good Manchester United have been. Jose Mourinho’s side started the season as second favourites to pick up the title at odds of 10/3 (Ladbrokes) and those odds have now shortened to 11/5 (Ladbrokes) after two superb performances which have seen them win 4-0 against both West Ham United and Swansea City. Romelu Lukaku has scored three times in those two games, whilst Henrikh Mkhitaryan has picked up four assists in two games. Manchester United were my pick to win the league before the season started and Mourinho’s side are purring at the moment.
Joining them at the top of the table are two sides who were expected to struggle this season; Huddersfield Town have won both of their opening two games without conceding a goal. Huddersfield Town started the season as 4/6 (Ladbrokes) favourites for relegation, but David Wagner’s side have exceeded expectations in their opening two matches, with new signing Steve Mounie has found the net three times in his first two games and all seems well at the club. Joining them on maximum points are Tony Pulis’s West Bromwich Albion side; Pulis is a controversial manager with many questioning his negative tactics, but there can be no doubt that he keeps teams in the Premier League and he has started with two 1-0 victories this season.
Big things were expected of West Ham United this season after what looked like a decent summer transfer window saw the club bring in the likes of Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez. Things have not turned out that way though with the club taking zero points from their first two games and conceding seven goals in the process. Joe Hart has now conceded 17 goals from his last 27 shots on target and his start to life at West Ham United has been less than impressive. New signing Marko Arnautovic was sent off this weekend for a ridiculous elbow and the only bright spot so far will have been Javier Hernandez scoring twice against Southampton. West Ham United seemed nailed on for 8th place or higher at the start of the season, but Slaven Bilic will have to inspire a big change in fortunes if they are going to get there.
It has also been a difficult start for Rafael Benitez who has seen his Newcastle United side lose on both of their outings so far this season without scoring. It has been a frustrating summer for the former Liverpool boss as the club have been unable to bring in his transfer targets and the club look short on quality in attacking areas. It could turn out to be a long season ahead for fans of Newcastle United unless they can make some big moves in the remaining days of the transfer window.
There are three more teams who have failed to win a point so far this season and they are Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace and Swansea City. Of those, Crystal Palace have been the biggest disappointment, with Frank de Boer’s side failing to find the net in either of their first two games and struggling to cope with the manager’s new system. They have some quality players in the shape of Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye, but things just aren’t clicking at the moment.
The Somewhere In Between
All of last seasons Top 5 fall somewhere in between, with none of them really excelling or disappointing. Manchester City remain the favourites to win the title, despite dropping points at home against a solid Everton side and Pep Guardiola’s side have shown enough in their opening two games to warrant their short odds. They have looked superb in attack and more solid at the back than last season and it looks like it could be a straight shoot-out between them and Manchester United for the title.
Last seasons Premier League champions, Chelsea, started the season in disastrous fashion, losing 3-2 at home to Burnley in a match that saw both Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabgregas sent off. Despite talk of chaos and turmoil at the club, they followed that up with an impressive 2-1 victory away at Tottenham Hotspur this time around. I predicted Spurs to struggle at Wembley this season and it was an inauspicious start to life for a club who were so solid at home last season. Tottenham dropped just four points at home in the whole of last season, but have started this campaign by dropping three in their first home game.
Liverpool started the season in dramatic fashion with a 3-3 draw against Watford in a game which seemed to sum up the club; fantastic in attack, a disaster in defence. Jurgen Klopp then followed that up with a hard fought victory away against TSG Hoffenheim in their Champions League Playoff match and a 1-0 victory at home to Crystal Palace in the league. Mohamed Salah appears to have settled well and Sadio Mane has picked up where he left off last season, scoring in both of the opening two Premier League matches. The big question mark at the club is the future of Philipe Coutinho, with Barcelona sniffing around Liverpool’s star man. The club have so far rejected three bids from the Spanish giants and the Anfield hierarchy seem intent on keeping the Brazilian wizard at the club for at least one more season.
There may be more concern at Arsenal though; Arsene Wenger’s side scraped to a 4-3 opening day victory against Leicester City after substitutes Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey scored twice in the last couple of minutes to salvage a win. The club then followed that up with a dismal performance away at Stoke City which saw them lose 1-0 in a game that will have surely irked fans who wanted to see Wenger leave this summer. It was a case of the same old Arsenal really and with Alexis Sanchez still yet to declare his allegiance to the club, it could be a difficult season ahead for Arsenal.